The secret gallery’s blog

Maybe the first secret gallery in Doolin, Co. Clare, Ireland

Archive for September 2008

The Wall paper scroll series

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While we were living in Spain, I made a series of works on wallpaper. Much of these were of words repeated over and over like: Love and Unity,using the Burgundy stain from an almost black corn on the cob, which James had bought for some exotic cooking!Sorry I stole it from him! Along with indigo pigment. I mixed these two colours to get the transitional colour, so there would be kind of waves of colour going down the scrolls.

I also made this drawing of a woman (left) as if from the inside out; thoughts and feelings are brought to the surface with words. I did a piece about sort of New Years resolutions, which hints at the almost absurd expectations that we and society put on each other! This is called Be Good! I wrote a Shamanic type conversation I had with a tree, called advice from a tree. Followed by piece where I wrote single words I chose from Herman Hesse’s book, The Alchemist, and which I also questioned the idea of using other peoples’ work in the piece itself. I also did on on the possibilities of a Free hour, and some of the this I could have done! The scrolls are all 6 or 7 feet in length.

I have recently bought another roll of wall paper, so I will see where this elongated series of work goes to! The first attempt has been as a very long piece about the difficult and dangerous journey that many Tibetans have taken from Tibet to Daramsala through the Himalayas, including the Dalia Lama. This piece has been inspires by James and his site Peacerider, to be inspired too!

Written by Marianne Slevin

30 September, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Why I don’t want to teach James how to paint an orange or do I!

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James has wanted me to teach him how to paint an orange, for about 4 years! We both painted a bowl of oranges almost 4 years ago and have not attempted the lesson since! Thinking about it now, maybe I will try it again one day! Though the idea has felt really uninspiring until now. I am sure there is a very good reason why he wants me to teach him how to paint an orange! The idea of a once off lesson in orange painting feels terribly isolated and dislocated! I find the idea of teaching someone solely one aspect of art very strange. Though strange may not be necessarily bad! Maybe if there is to be a lesson, it would go something like:

I would say it is a good idea to have several studies of the orange or even oranges on the go so you can be really free and experimental on other pieces first and learn from what happens with these, this will filter into the main painting of the orange even if you don’t realize it. Sometimes it can be good to take a break from detailed life-like study to free up a bit and energize yourself and be a bit bolder! Draw the orange, even look at it through a magnifying glass! 

Take an orange, hold it, look at it from all sides. Preferably take another orange and peel it, smell it, then eat some of it. Get your paints and a pallet and turpentine or white spirits or water, depending on what sort of paint you are using, some rags and something to paint on: paper, board, canvas or something else that you wish to paint on. An orange may be orange but you will still need to all the colours on the pallet. I have hardly ever bought a tube of orange paint, maybe never! Place the orange where you would like to paint it. The lighting, surface beneath it, distance you are from it, the angle you see it from, whether you would like to paint it complete or partly peeled, partly eaten or in stages of being devoured all need to be thought about and decided on.

Some tips for painting from life are:

Don’t use colour directly out of the tube, it will never or almost never be exactly the same.

To lighten a colour don’t just add white unless you want it to look chalky, you can add a little yellow into the white, to avoid chalkiness

Keep your brushes clean when using another colour to stop the paint getting muddy looking

Avoid mixing up to many different colours to make a colour; if they are very different colours it can turn to sludge!

Be obsessive be a perfectionist and give it love!

Then look at the orange, squint your eyes to see where the light is and the darker shades are. A light outline drawing of the orange and how it sits on the surface, are a good starting point. Then start trying to get some of the various shades of orange mixed on the pallet. Start trying to create the feeling of the 3 dimensional object, this is a lot to do with how the light falls on the shape. This involves a lot of looking and squinting, applying some paint then looking and squinting some more! Depending on which kind of paint you are using you can keep working, building up the layers of colour to create something that strongly resembles the orange!

Ask yourself questions like: does it feel like an orange, does it feel and look like the actual orange that you were painting, every orange is different! does it feel like it is actually sitting on the table and that it is a solid object? Does it look like you would like to eat it!? What can you do to make it better? Is the texture orange-like? I still am not sure if I am up to the orange challenge! I would like to one day work out a way to do it where James gets to paint the orange that he has wanted to paint for a long time and feels that he has learnt something more about painting, that he can apply to painting anything. I have seen some of James early paintings and they are really good; he has a very natural sense of colour and composition, I guess James would like to be able to paint what he sees and the ideas he has in his head: not to be held back by this technical side. I remember painting oranges years ago and loving the oranges in Cézannes paintings.        

Written by Marianne Slevin

27 September, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Poetry along The Burren Way

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Old foot road from Fanore

to Ballyvaughan


Four windmills


Rock flowers

brown bird

first raindrops

yellow fern

young bull

two magpies cross


Stone boulders lay silently


Fast moving grey cloud

over grey mountain

rock slope shines for a moment


Low stone walls crisscross

a seagull glides on air currents

leaving no trace of where it has been


A dog barks across

a low rocky mountain

wind gnarled thorn trees


Hawk great sky navigator

suddenly a second hawk

flies low over

the sloping rock fields


Wind dried

sky road


The ocean is covered with cloud shadow

rain in the sea


A single tree clings

to the mountainside


Stillness almost


Chirps from a hidden bird

taking shelter with wild strawberries and mint


Rain drops cling to

flower petals


I wrote this on 26 July 2000

This day 6 years later our son was born! Much has changed since then in our lives but the Burren appears much the same as it did that day!

Written by Marianne Slevin

27 September, 2008 at 11:48 am

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Beautiful bowls by the side of the road

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Sometimes art is seen as a commodity; an object separate from life and the rest of the world, which is bought and sold. I love when life and art merge into one another. We probably cannot sell these creative moments, but that does not mean that they are not worthwhile! In many other cultures it feels like art and life do merge. Costumes, ritual, dance, story telling are just some of the aspects of art that are practiced in a very living way, that do not have to be sealed into a white gallery to exist.( I like going to galleries as well but wish there was more art every day in life !)

In the west, practicality seems to breed out the finer details that are so important in art. Sometime we pair away the heart and art in our obsession with survival in our throw away fast culture. Mass production, and often the use of cheap materials that either unfortunately, last forever or are designed only to last as long as they bring out the next model for us to buy are cutting away at our right to a more beauty filled life, compromise when we try to live our dreams seems to be too normal. Where are the artisans?

We have started selling beautiful wooden bowls, platters and lamps created and turned by my Father, in the Secret Gallery. On fine days we leave some of these lovely bowls on a table with an table cloth with word written on a walk through the Burren. This arrangement is at our gate by the side of the road. As the wind blows the table cloth billows out from the sea smoothed rocks that hold it down, and random Burren inspired words are revealed.       

Written by Marianne Slevin

25 September, 2008 at 5:39 pm

Dreams and the subconscious in art

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For many years dreams have played a large part in my art. My degree show was an instillation which was inspired by a series of dreams. There were nine horse dream blankets, they were the size and shape of real horse blankets. They were suspended between the floor and the ceiling, like bridges between the earthly and the spiritual. They were made from different materials  including: hay, hessian, clay indigo pigment and poppy seed stain, some of the blankets had dreams written on them.

Last night I had a dream about painting, all I remember was in the dream I realised that when you are painting you have to become the painting. I think this relates to how connected you are to the painting when you are working on it; that you really have to feel it. It is a little bit like how the Zen masters become one with what they are meditating on, or say writing a Haiku about.

Sometimes it feels like you become the painting and sometimes it feels like the painting becomes you, it is a dialogue between the artist and what is becoming revealed through the painting; or the conscious mind and the subconscious mind.

As a child, one of my strangely strong memories was of thinking to myself that, I wanted to invent a way for us to tap into the subconscious mind. Then I did not know how art could do this. It is strange, or maybe not so strange that this is what I am still attempting to do!

Written by Marianne Slevin

23 September, 2008 at 9:31 pm